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Handheld Night Scene

The EOS 700D has two automated multi-exposure scene options on the mode dial (inherited from the EOS 650D). The Handheld Night Scene mode was first seen on the Canon PowerShot SD4500 IS. This mode is designed to enable low light image captures without the use of a tripod. It does this by enabling a faster shutter speed and then capturing four successive exposures which are then combined to reduce image noise. In this scene mode the only parameters you can adjust are the 'ambience' setting and drive mode along with the ability to enable/disable flash output. You are also limited to JPEG-only output. Users who desire more control over exposure and shooting settings may also want to consider the 700D's MultiShot NR mode which we examine on the image quality tests page of this review.

In the examples below (shot with the functionally identical EOS 650D) we compare Handheld Night Scene output with a manually exposed capture set at an identical aperture with sharpening and noise reduction at their defaults. The images were shot handheld, maintaining the same camera position as much as possible.

As you can see, in Handheld Night scene mode the image is cropped, presumably to allow for the automated image alignment that takes place during processing. Helpfully, this crop is previewed in live view, so that you can accurately frame the final composition. Once the individual frames have been merged and aligned, the image is then upsampled slightly to match the 650D's native resolution of 5184 x 3456. All of this work is very processor intensive. After each press of the shutter button you must wait for about nine seconds or so before taking another picture, though you can still access the camera's menus.

Handheld Night Scene mode:
ISO 12800, 1/10 @f/3.2
P mode:
ISO 6400, 1/5 @f/3.2
100% crops

When pointed at the same scene, Handheld Night Scene mode opts for a higher ISO (12800 vs. 6400) to attain a faster shutter speed, which can minimize camera shake between its four exposures. Of course, using a higher ISO sensitivity also increases the potential for visible noise. We would expect then that Canon's engineers have tailored a combination of noise suppression and sharpening settings to minimize noise. And as you can see in the samples above, 'handheld' mode indeed provides a cleaner image than the normally-processed JPEG. It's equally as clear, however, that the end result is a somewhat softer image.

We must give Canon credit though for an impressive balance of noise suppression and image detail. At such high ISO settings, there is precious little, if any, penalty to be paid in terms of fine detail for these reduced noise levels. As a quick and easily accessible mode for the point-and-shoot oriented user, Handheld Night Scene mode provides cleaner looking images with minimal detail loss.

What more seasoned users give up though, is the ability to simultaneously capture a Raw file, which could easily be processed to taste in their preferred raw converter software. Below we show a comparison between the same Handheld Night Scene capture and a Raw file with which we've taken just a few moments in ACR to adjust sharpness and noise reduction settings.

Handheld Night Scene mode
ISO 12800, 100% crop
ACR 7.1 with custom NR and sharpening
ISO 6400, 100% crop
100% crop 100% crop

With minimal effort in ACR, you can achieve equivalent chroma noise reduction and opt for slightly greater luminance noise in order to produce a more crisp image. Keep in mind though, that we are looking at 100% crops and that to reap any practical benefits of these ACR settings you would need to be making a very large print.

HDR Backlight Control

The 700D's other multi-exposure scene mode is labeled HDR Backlight Control and aims to expand the dynamic range to include more information in both highlight and shadow regions. With this shooting mode enabled, three consecutive images are captured - each at different exposure - with the files then merged into a single composite image. As with 'handheld' mode, the image is cropped - again presumably to accommodate the automated image alignment - and then upsampled to the 700D's standard resolution.

This a JPEG-only mode. And the image settings you can adjust are limited to drive mode and JPEG size/quality. You cannot specify the bracketing range of the three exposures. Nor can they be accessed as individual files. In the samples below, we compare HDR Backlight Control with a traditional exposure using an identical aperture.

HDR Backlight Scene mode: ISO 100, f/3.5 Av mode: ISO 100, f/3.5
100% crops

As you can see, HDR Backlight Control is able to preserve color information in the highlights that had been clipped in the single-shot exposure. The shadows appear ever so slightly more open in this mode, but clearly the emphasis is on maintaining highlight detail. As mentioned earlier, bracketing among the three exposures is fully automated; you can't specify an EV range, for example. In our time spent using this mode, we've seen 'HDR' retain between 1 and 1 1/2 stops of color-accurate highlight data. You can gain a full 2 stops EV of highlight data by using the camera's auto exposure bracketing feature, but HDR mode of course saves you the extra effort of aligning and blending the separate images to form the composite.

As with any shooting mode in which multiple images are blended together, HDR Backlight Control works best with static subjects. Any movement during the three exposures can lead to ghosting, where an object partially appears in multiple locations, as shown in the example below.

Ghosting occurs when an element in the scene has changed position between exposures. Moving objects like pedestrians and vehicles are obvious elements to avoid, as shown in the crop above. On a windy day, foliage can also move significantly, causing the same ghosting effect.

Overall, HDR Backlight Control works as advertised and gives beginning users an easy way to extend dynamic range for greater highlight detail, moving subjects notwithstanding. Our biggest complaint though is with image softness of the final result. In side by side comparisons, both handheld and on a tripod, we've seen softer results from 'HDR' mode than from shooting in the PASM modes, as you can see below.

100% crop
HDR Backlight Scene mode: ISO 100, f/4
100% crop
Av mode: ISO 100, f/4

While we also saw slightly softer results from the 'handheld' scene mode, the comparison above stands in sharper relief because - as with the situations in which you'd actually use 'HDR' - we're shooting at a low ISO, in which there's greater potential for rendering fine detail. To be fair, while more experienced users may prefer to get sharper results through manually blending images, we suspect many first-time DSLR owners will be satisfied with these results, particularly given the point-and-shoot nature of its implementation.

Bear in mind that if you opt to use these (or any other) scene modes, live view operation offers a distinct advantage. It is only in live view that you can manually set the AF point along a wide portion of the scene. In through-the-viewfinder shooting, the camera automatically selects among its 9 central AF points, with no way for the user to manually choose a specific AF point as is possible in the PASM modes.

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Total comments: 17

I'm using Canon EOS 700D and dang I love this camera touch screen and the live view focus accuracy when I mount it on tripod to take our family photos. Pictures are 99% sharp unlike my past Sony SLT A33 that churned out soft photos over various Sony lenses. The camera help to stop me from migrating to full frame. The only drawback is this camera with the 18-135mm STM is 1.5kg and its a great pain to lug this around Paris.


I am using Canon EOS 700D camera ... Great quality pictures ...

Canon EOS Rebel T5i

I'm using this one, when I take the picture, it is very nice, love it


I’m still using the Canon 50D. It seems the newer cameras are no longer using compact flash cards. Those cards seems a lot easier to use and seem more reliable.

1 upvote

How is it that the 550D scores higher than this camera? Even in the compare to score section, raw scores higher on the 550D. I find it weird that a camera 3 generations newer scores worst.

My girlfriend sold her 550D and wants a new touchscreen Canon, but it feels like the quality has not moved ahead in years.


The score, as you can see by the review, takes into account not just the performance of the gear itself but also it's performance when compared to the others in the same range, below and above.

So, when 550D was launched for example, its features were, overall, considered better than average in a way that it scored a gold award of 77%.

This model however, has shown many good features too but a few (irrelevant for me) not so good features when compared to average.

Yet, 77% to a 76% in my opinion, in this case, is a absolutely irrelevant difference.

Its a good camera.

Kishore Pratap Sanghvi

I am graduating from a bridge camera to a DSLR. Have been a hobby photographer for many years primarily doing landscape photography but I do it only when on a vacation that would be twice a year. I was a little confused whether to buy a Canon 700D or a Nikon D5300. I have always used Canon cameras before and after going thru many reviews comparing the two cameras I am not wiser. I also understand that once one buys a DSLR one continues to buy cameras of that family so that it can save money on lenses. Assuming that the quality of photos is not much different in the two cameras is the touch screen in 700D so useful that I should buy a Canon or the WIFI-GPS so important in the Nikon. As there anything else that help me decide between the two. Your advice would be most helpful.Tx. You can reply directly on my mail -

ravi pratap

since u have been using canon , it is better to go for 700d as u r familiar with canon system and picture style and may have canon lenses with you. i find canon 700d is nice cam with cleaner sharper image with better color than nikon.

zdenek nostalgig

Nikon always have bean a crap for landscapes...I mean in case we talking about cheaper model DSLRs. Nikons green color is absolute joke and ISO stuck ....stay with canon...Nikon is great for moving objects r portraits...but as a landscape photographer I will never ever go for Nikon unless I can buy D4.


I would go for the Canon if you have prior experience with those cameras. Also, the Nikon lens screw on "backwards" - well, at least the one I used. Their customer support was abysmal in 2012 when I was working for a company that had a problem with one of their recent DSLRs. At the time I was trying to use the company camera (a Nikon) to take product shots but was having many issues so I brought my Canon 7D to work everyday and shot them with that.

ravi pratap

canon 600d or 700d ?
i have been carefully seeing 1000s of photos taken by 600d and 700d on flickr and other review sites including this top cam site, in review images 600d looks better on most parameters notably sharpness and color but on flickr photos 600d pix looks a bit less sharp to 700d pix which is more evident on night landscapes shots.
Especially a few shots on 700d plus canon 18-135 of hongkong night landscape is very sharp with great color...which none of nikon, sony or pantex match...i m in dilemma , can the 600d with 18-135 canon match 700d?
experts are requested to clear the doubt, thanks!


An outstanding review as usual. I just wish camera makers would let cameras be cameras and camcorders be camcorders. All I want is a camera. Take away the video mode gubbins and we would see a big drop in price. I can buy a pocket camcorder if I need urgent video. Why stick it in a camera at all? Better buffers could be included and also better features by knocking out the video stuff. Well, that's what I think anyway.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting

blah blah blah ..cannon stays cannon ..all the new shiny freaks will rush on buying a camera that is basically the same as the one they had 3 years ago .
no true innovation from cannon for a long while now .

just for once i wish they would atleast try to innovate something new

Dave Smith Trelawnyd

A nice camera that replaced my 600D after it ingested yellow steam on a volcano!
The camera does everything I ask of it including astro photography, and the touch screen is used far more than I thought it would be, all in all an excellent camera.

Pepe Le Pew

The Rebel series are getting worse and worse every year


How so? This is an upgrade..

cor ela d obe x6Ps6

@pepe... then, what is the best DSLR?

1 upvote
Total comments: 17